Smallholders Need Help To Get ISPO Certification

JAKARTA – The Association of Indonesian Oil Palm Smallholders (Apkasindo) Chairman Gulat ME Manurung said that small-farmers support the government’s policy to implement the certification of Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) as it will ensure their sustainability in the global market.

“Apkasindo fully supports the ISPO certification. But we want to ensure that all requirements set by the ISPO certification are not too high for small-holders to comply with. Apkasindo wants to bridge between the aspirations of smallholders and the government’s policies without reducing the quality of the ISPO certification,” said Gulat.

He said that such certification will help solve the legal status of small-farmers’ plantations, especially those claimed to be part of the forestry areas, despite being legally cleared through the issuance of the omnibus law and all its implementing regulations.

He admitted that it is not easy for smallholders to meet all requirements set by the ISPO certification. “Even the companies find it difficult to meet the sustainability requirements. Just check the data by the end of 2020. Despite the fact that ISPO certification has been implemented since 9 years ago, only 45 percent of companies managed to realize the ISPO certifications. I predict that until 2025 the ISPO certifications for small-farmers will only cover the maximum area of 522,000 hectares plantations or 7.58 percent of the total areas owned by the smallholders,” Gulat said.

He said that one of the nagging problems that are difficult to resolve is the legality of the oil palm plantations, which are often concerned with forested areas and spatial planning. “Based on the study conducted by Apkasindo, the smallholders have been facing different problems before 2008 and after 2008. Before 2008, main problems of smallholders were concerned with availability of seedlings, fertilizers, trading of fresh fruit bunches (FFB), harvest and post-harvest, and the government regulations.  But after 2008, their problems are concerned with forest-related regulations, FFB trading, plantation licensing (STDB) and infrastructure,” he said.

”Regarding the FFB trading, there is a price gap of Rp400 – 500 per kilogram received by farmers as compared to the price set by the local governments’ plantation services. The price gap is much bigger in eastern Indonesia, where the price gap can reach Rp1,000/kg. How can we sustain if the price is messed up against farmers’ interest,” he said.

Gulat noted the fact that it is very easy for smallholders who participate in the replanting program (PSR) to meet the requirements of ISPO certifications. It is because all of the requirements set in the ISPO certifications are also requirements of the PSR. “Actually, the smallholders who take part in the PSR are the most prepared in realizing the ISPO certifications. They’ve met the requirements, and they just get it certified with ISPO,” said the candidate of Phd in environment.

But he asked the government to also pay attention to other smallholders who are not participants of the PSR as they find it very difficult to get the ISPO certification. “Actually, the core problem of sustainability lies in the non-PSR plantations with a total acreage of 6.35 million hectares. The smallholders who are not participants of the PSR could not realize the ISPO certification due to the problems that are concerned with the legality, history of agronomy, and plantation licensing (STDB),” he said.

According to him, without changing the way to see the growers compliance with the presidential regulation (Perpres) No.44/ 2020 on ISPO obligation will be difficult for the smallholders. “In 2025, as the Perpres obliges, all growers should have started the process of getting the ISPO certification. The Perpres that was issued in 2020 only gives a grace period of five years as a pre-condition for preparations of getting the certification. After that, will it be realized? Proceed or stop then?,” he said.

He noted that Apkasindo has been trying to accelerate the ISPO certification for small-farmers by, among others, having its executives educated as auditors of ISPO, conducting a survey of the typology of smallholders’ problems, regularly conducting public discussions, socializing, and proposing to the government to help the smallholders in undertaking the bureaucratic procedures and advocacy. (*)